19 April releases – Reviewed and rated

Apologies, no full reviews this week, due to a lack of time and inspiration. Ultimately the albums released last week didn’t get me over-excited. I had high hopes for Loyle Carner‘s sophomore Not Waving, But Drowning, but ultimately it felt a little one-dimensional stylistically. If I were to pick out an album of the week, it would probably be Happy Now by post-punk veterans Gang of Four, but there’s not much in it to be honest. Hopefully this week’s batch will be better.

Gang Of Four – Happy Now

This is the ninth proper studio album from these post-punk veterans, feels a little tired but still has some good moments.

Rating: 6.5/10 – Album of the Week

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Leafcutter John – Yes! Come Parade With Us

Sometimes interesting electronica but failed to hit the spot consistently.

Rating: 6.5/10

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Heather Woods Broderick – Invitation

Nice ethereal singer-songwriting here, but just nice rather than impressive.

Rating: 6.5/10

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Loyle Carner – Not Waving, But Drowning

An enjoyable slice of laid-back hip-hop but lacking in musical diversity.

Rating: 6/10

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Cage The Elephant – Social Cues

American indie-rock with a few quality tracks interspersed – but not enough to grab your attention long-term.

Rating: 6/10

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Fat White Family – Serfs Up!

An album of initial promise from these south-London rockers, but unfortunately soon disappears up its own arse.

Rating: 5.5/10

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Stealing Sheep – Big Wows

Fluffy electro and indie pop that didn’t really do it for me.

Rating: 5/10

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New Music Friday 19 April – What to listen to

Here’s hoping it’s a ‘Good Friday’ for new releases – natch. Hip-hop artist Loyle Carner releases the follow-up to his Mercury-nominated debut album, while Cage The Elephant and Stealing Sheep also look to have a bit about them. I’ll review and see if they’ve got any substance to their releases.

Spotify playlist at the bottom.

Loyle Carner – Not Waving, But Drowning

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Cage The Elephant – Social Cues

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Stealing Sheep – Big Wows

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Gang Of Four – Happy Now

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Fat White Family – Serfs Up!

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Leafcutter John – Yes! Come Parade With Us

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Heather Woods Broderick – Invitation

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Here’s a playlist of all of the above if you want to listen to this week’s selected new releases.

Album review: Little Simz – GREY Area

Little Simz - GREY Area album cover

25-year old Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo, a.k.a. Little Simz, is now on her third album and displaying an incredible amount of maturity for her tender age.

GREY Area is a powerful and provocative work that lays bare both her fragility and her steely determination. There is musical sophistication here to match her well-conceived lyrical lashings, which combine to deliver a quite impressive opus.

Simbi sets her stall out on opener Offence, which features some classic funk breakbeat, buzzy bass and jazz-style flutes as she essentially warns us that she doesn’t care who she offends. If you’re bothered by what she’s got to say – that’s on you.

There are other powerful messages contained in this album. Wounds, with its bluesy guitar and impatient keyboard and drum line, hits out at women who get embroiled in and end up supporting and glorifying gun culture.

Venom, possibly top track on the album, uses ominous strings and oppressive keyboards to call out sexism in the music industry and highlights how forthright women can be cast aside for being too intimidating.

There are a fair few self-reflecting pieces on here. Therapy finds Little Simz recounting how counselling sessions hadn’t worked for her, but did find redemption in the power of perseverance and self-belief.

Sherbert Sunset, another track driven by a fantastic funky bass line, is a classic break-up track, but manages to combine the relief of having dodged a bullet with regret at it having ended and counting up the damage done from both the relationship and the split.

We get some traditional Japanese melodies via keyboard accompanied by some cracking heavy bass on 101 FM. The track offers us the well worn gem that the most important lessons in life don’t come at school, but does manage to reference Crash Bandicoot and Mortal Kombat in the process. Priceless.

It’s not a perfect album, some tracks don’t develop as much as you may want, but there are enough highlights to keep your attention throughout, and to go back for a repeat listen.

Release date: 01 March 2019

Rating: 7.5/10

Standout track: Venom

For fans of:

  • Missy Elliott
  • Loyle Carner
  • Miss Red

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